Pussy Power: Walking Our Talk

Feline, cats (catty), cougar, pussy, kitten—all slang terms used for women and girls—Meow! In the past, all of these terms (and many more) have been used to shame and denigrate women and girls, trying reduce us to some form of “animal.” Additionally, the term pussy, a specific slang term for a woman’s vulva or vagina, has also been used to label boys and men as somehow “feminine,” “soft,” “weak,” or somehow “female.”  Oh, the horrors!!

These patriarchal male-generated slurs are now being flipped, subverted, and redefined.  Welcome to the time-honored tradition* of women reclaiming language! Patriarchal language isn’t the only tongue in town. Welcome to woman-speak.  Woman-speak cherishes honesty, connection, tolerance, and diversity. Patriarchal speech, on the other hand, commonly spews hate onto women and other oppressed peoples or classes. Just as cats roar, meow, yowl, hiss, and purr in a wide array, women are talking, singing, speaking, crooning, shouting, writing, and expressing our individual and collective truths/ realities with our deep connections to life and Earth.

Welcome to pussy hats, pussy symbolism, pussy power.

Welcome to the land of women who emulate all felines by seeing through the dark. Seeing clearly through our dark times; wrapping our supple selves around creativity, political action, and pink; standing tall in our ability to land on our feet with our wits intact, 9 times 9 times 9 times 9 . . . .

A lovely part of the Women’s March that reclaims language, stands up to patriarchal threats, and looks fetching in the process, are the marvelous pussy hats. Maxine Levinson of Knitty City in New York, says,

“We wanted to reclaim the idea of the word pussy, because it shouldn’t be a demeaning word. And one of the ways to claim it back is to use it, so it is called the ‘pussy hat’ and we are proud to wear it.”

Indeed!  Because of the pussy hat project, I decided to learn to knit.  A wonderful friend taught the basics as I worked to follow the free hat pattern.  Closer to home, local media reported  that “Protesters said the pink hats are a symbol of how women feel about the current administration.” As Jerril Nilson explained to reporter Ashley Force,

“We are unwilling to support a president who is a misogynist. I guess I won’t use words that I can’t use on television, but we won’t be grabbed by our… pink hats.”

At yesterday’s march here, I was thrilled to see so many women, men, and children wearing knitted, crocheted, or sewn pussy hats. Being a part of this historic worldwide Women’s March felt so tremendous!  We all stood and then walked through pouring rain, but as you can see we were thrilled to be a part of it.

pussyhats at Eugene Women's March 2017
Me & thousands of others at the Eugene, OR Women’s March 2017.

After the march, I found that women all over the world had made pussy hats, signs, and other art and showed up in enormous numbers to show solidarity and support.  Looking at the photos here and here, made me feel really proud and connected.

Washington DC march & Oslo, Norway march. Photos by Andrew Caballero & Stian Lysberg

Pussy grabs back.

pussy grabs back
Partial image of Stella Mars design of “Pussy Grabs Back.”

Returning to language, I also want to pay tribute to the fact that after then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump’s comments about his practice of “grabbing women by the pussy” came to light, women all over the country responded with outrage and creativity. “#pussygrabsback” became an immediate, wildly popular hashtag. Kim Boekbinder swiftly created a song (with attached video) as one of many feminist responses.

A group of artists and business women formed the Female Collective which offers the original “pussy grabs back” t-shirt as well as many other feminist quotes.  Their site declares,

“More than ever before, this country needs our pussies to grab back. We are going to fight. We are going to walk taller and prouder than ever. The movement continues. Suit up.”

Suit up we did! Women turned out in droves!!  EVERYWHERE. Each march was peaceful, colorful, and united.

Therefore, I know—

We are going to remain active, aware, and awake. We are going to continue to reclaim language, make brilliant art, and speak from our souls. Because we are women of the United States of America, because we are women of the world, and because,

this is what democracy looks like!

*A few examples include Mary Daly’s Wickedary, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s  The Woman’s Bible, Audre Lourde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Jane Caputi’s Gossips, Gorgons, & Crones: The Fates of the Earth, Bitch, Bust, writings by Zora Neale Hurston, Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan, Adrienne Rich, Clarrisa Pinkola Estes, Rosemary Reuther Radford, and many, many others.

3 thoughts on “Pussy Power: Walking Our Talk

  1. Great post! Let’s take back those patriarchal terms and flip them! I love seeing women share their thoughts and voices together at the woman’s march, truly a beautiful sight.

    1. Thanks so much for reading the post and sending your comments! Absolutely a beautiful sight. 🙂 And, we are all stronger, more centered, and more sure as we stand together, flip “nasty” language and keep stomping out hate!

Comments are closed.